I recently took an updated look (revamping an older post) at what a diverse Justice League should look like. Along similar lines (and given the team’s popularity), I thought I should do the same for my old post on the other top superhero team, the Avengers.
“Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” first appeared in “The Avengers” #1 in 1963, and were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The founding members of the Avengers are Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. Since then, the team’s roster has changed constantly; the Hulk left in the very next issue, while Captain America joined the team in issue #4.
While the numerous comic spin-offs have presented more diverse lineups, that hasn’t always extended to media spin-offs. Some have criticized the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Avengers films for how they’ve handled diversity. Thus, my question still stands: what should a diverse Avengers look like?
For this post I’ll look at several major versions of the team:
- The original 1963 founding roster.
- The 2002 Ultimate Marvel comics’ version of the Avengers, named “the Ultimates”: Nick Fury, Iron Man, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Captain America, and Thor.
- The initial roster from “Avengers Assemble,” a 2013 animated series that ran for five seasons (as the longest-running animated Avengers adaption): Captain America, the Falcon, Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe founding roster (as seen in the 2012 movie “The Avengers”): Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and (as the creator of the Avengers concept) Nick Fury.
There’s been numerous variations and spin-offs of the Avengers over the decades. See: the West Coast Avengers, a spin-off team based in California, or the Young Avengers, a team of up-and-coming teenage heroes (similar to DC Comics’ Teen Titans). Still, it’s the Avengers versions I listed above that get used for movies, merchandising, cartoons, etc. Particularly, at this point the MCU version of the team is the Avengers, as far as the general public is concerned.
Additionally, I’ll be using the following criteria, similar to my Justice League post:
- Given the movies’ dominance at this point, I’ll assume a hypothetical Avengers team should have a similar number of members as the 2012 film, seven (counting Nick Fury).
- I’m basing my diversity measures on non-male and people of color members. Other diversity measures (LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, religious minorities, etc.) are nice; however, I feel this is a bare minimum.
- The Hulk counts as Caucasian for my list’s purposes (per Bruce Banner).
- Information is taken from the most recent US Census figures. As of the 2020 census, the ethnic/racial makeup of the US is 57.8% White, 18.7% Hispanic, 12.1% African American, 5.9% Asian American, 4.1% multiracial, 0.7% Native American, and 0.2% Pacific Islander. (Figures don’t add up to 100% exactly.) Or more simply, 42.2% of the US population is non-White. About 51% of Americans identified as female.
Assuming seven main Avengers members, four should be White and three people of color. Also, three or four Avengers members shouldn’t identify as male.
Looking at how the main versions of the Avengers listed above fare:
- The original 1963 Avengers: five (100%) White, none (0%) non-White; four (80%) male, one (20%) female (the Wasp).
- The Ultimates: five (83%) White, one (17%) non-White (the Ultimate version of Nick Fury, who’s African American); five (83%) male, one (17%) female (the Wasp).
- The 2013 “Avengers Assemble” animated series: six (86%) White, one (14%) non-White (the Falcon); six (86%) male, one (14%) female (Black Widow).
- The MCU Avengers (from the 2012 movie): six (86%) White, one (14%) non-White (Nick Fury); six (86%) male, one (14%) female (Black Widow).
None of the above versions of the Avengers fare particularly well when it comes to diversity. For non-White members, the Ultimates version technically wins percentage-wise, but barely. For non-male members, the original 1963 team wins, but again because of percentages (and only having five initial members).
I admit going in on this, I expected mediocre stats similar to the Justice League versions, but I’m still surprised at how mediocre. I suspect one factor is the number of spots taken up by Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man; they’re currently Marvel’s most popular heroes who aren’t mutants or web-slingers.
The lack of diversity in many of the MCU films is a sore point that many have brought up; to point to a few articles on the subject:
- Screen Rant, which also notes a few other downsides of the films.
- Mic outlines how things stood as of 2018 (and “Infinity War”), complete with charts.
- The Mary Sue comments on “The Eternals” film featuring a more diverse cast, as a hopeful sign things are changing.
Who should belong to a diverse Avengers team?
As for who I’d put on a diverse Avengers roster? Keeping in mind my minimum requirements (at least three who aren’t male, at least three people of color), I have a few suggestions below:
The choices above assume I keep the “Big Four” Avengers (Steve, Bruce, Tony, and Thor) intact. However, that limits the options for the remaining three slots. That and two heroes on the same team with “America” in their name might not be a good thing?
Assuming I’m allowed to change the first four:
- Sam Wilson (as Captain America or the Falcon)
- Iron Man
- Black Panther
- Scarlet Witch
- Captain Marvel
- White Tiger (Ava Ayala)
Finally, hewing closer to a MCU/”classic” style roster:
- Captain America (Sam Wilson)
- Iron Man (James “Rhodey” Rhodes)
- Thor (Jane Foster)
- Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)
- Black Widow
- Reptil (Humberto Lopez)
That keeps a classic-style “Big Four” intact. If wondering, Reptil is a teenage boy with the ability to turn parts or all of his body into different types of dinosaurs. As of this writing, he’s been on a few secondary Avengers teams in the comics.
The above lineups give us:
- At least seven members to a team.
- Matches current US demographics.
- Feature characters that’d appeal to the general public.
- Largely avoids using characters tied to Spider-Man or who’re mutants (assuming avoiding the latter in non-X-Men material still matters to Marvel).
- Characters who’d be appealing on posters, merchandise, media spin-offs, etc.
Again, ideally there’d also be a diverse group of creators working behind-the-scenes on all of these Avengers characters.
Who would you want to see on a diverse version of the Avengers?
Image from “Avengers Assemble” (2013 animated series). (Marvel/Disney)